Landour Part II

And so…
Landour was just the tip of the iceberg. Walked up, leaving the town and all its attendant horrors far behind. After a few steep twists in the road, past the Tehri highway…a veritable fairy land of sal and pine forests!! Didn’t know that I was approaching Lal Tibba- the highest point in the Mussoorie hills and also the houses of the who’s who. Absolute peace and quiet, not a soul in sight, apart from the occassional Tavera bearing disgruntled looking tourists to Lal Tibba. And the bungalows! The location makes you jealous and the isolation makes you sigh. Now we really were in the hills, with just forests all around and the occassional century-old church hiding behind a canopy of pine trees. The only sound to disturb the peace would be that of a dog barking with the sheer joy of existance somewhere among the trees. Almost the entire area is private property- the various estates, the army, Doordarshan, etc. However, this also ensures a sense of splendid isolation. At every other turn, you come face to face with an unexpected bit of stray cloud. You stop, bow in greeting and let him glide over you witht a cold shiver. Believe me, ghosts have nothing on them. Lal Tibba itself is nothing in itself. Just an ugly observatory with “really powerful binoculars” mounted on top to view the greater Himalayas. Dunno why anybody would spend 25 bucks to peer into them when the entire area is under a white blanket. But one should never underestimate the stupidity of tourists. Us hikers actually got pitying looks from fat Delhi and Punjabi burghers in their Opel Astras as they made their disgruntled way up the slopes. The state govt could do much worse than banning the use of cars on these roads but I guess that’ll never happen.
The actual highest point belongs to a beautiful early-19th century estate called Childer’s Estate. Built by some homesick Scot in 1829, this beautiful retreat and its farmsteads belong to the Nahata family. Its called something suitably dumb now.
Made our way down to the horror of the Mussoorie Mall and to the Cambridge Book Depot, where Ruskin Bond was making his weekend visit to sign autographs for smitten kids, their proud parents and assorted Delhi socialites with fake American accents going “Oh Mr Bond, I adooooore your works. I read all your stories in my school books.” And then they would proceed to get photographed with him en masse. There was even a proud parent who gave him an Enid Blyton book to sign wi\hich he signed, “With Best Wishes, Enid.” Not that anybody noticed, in the frenzy. My friend was realising a lifelong ambition to meet him and spent a long time chatting with him. He sounded rueful enough about the sights and sounds of the Mall, and encouraged us to take walks outside the town and invited us over for tea to his place. Ah, celebrity! Dunno if we’ll take it up. Would love to see his cottage though, hidden somewhere among the pines of Landour Cantonment.

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